As seen in Huffington Post
I love, love, love the holiday season, but I do not enjoy all the additional stuff it brings into my home. If you’re looking to spread the holiday cheer without adding clutter I put together some great alternatives to traditional gifts that you can find here.
However, if you are past that point and know that you, your kids, your dog and your gerbil will be receiving an insane amount of presents this year, you’re going to need a strategy to deal with all of those things without your home looking like a department store.
Trust me, I feel your pain. I know I’ve mentioned this before but since we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas the amount of new items that find their way into my home can be a bit overwhelming. Especially with three kids in the mix.
One In One Out
Tough rule, I know. But it doesn’t matter how organized you are, if you have too much in your home you'll never be able to maintain it and it will always feel disorganized.
However this can be a great way to help your children learn the value of charity. I try to frame it that they are so lucky to be getting all these new toys, but other kids are not so lucky, so we pick some toys that we aren’t playing with anymore so that other kids can have a chance with them. Look in your area for places that will accept gently used toys and donate them.
Unfortunately you need to apply the same rule to the adults in the house; while that new scarf is super soft and beautiful I bet you have at least one in your collection that has either seen better days or that you don’t wear anymore. Get it out of there.
Put It Back
One of the most important steps in maintaining an organized space is to put it back. I go into it in more detail here but it is a step that can be easily overlooked during the holiday season. We are so excited to try on our new clothes or play that new video game or test out that new toy that before we know there is just stuff. Everywhere. Enjoy your the new additions but don’t let all of the excitement get the best of you. Once you’re done put it back.
Find A Home For It
This one goes hand in hand with the ‘put it back rule’, but sometimes it can be really hard to put something away if you don’t know where it goes. Find a spot that makes sense for you. Especially if this new item is something that you will use frequently in the coming weeks. You want a space for it that is accessible and works with your routine. This may require you to go through some of your existing stuff and declutter a bit. I know you want to use that fancy new mug with great mouth feel that you just received but if your cupboard is already bursting at the seams you won’t have a place to put it.
I can already hear the groans and gasps at this suggestion. As good as the gift giver's intention may have been, sometimes they just miss the mark. Think of the space in your home as valuable real estate. Why waste that space on something that you don’t want, need, or love?
There is nothing wrong with repurposing that gift for someone else. As long as you do it right:
Put a little post-it on the bottom of the gift with the name of who gave it to you
Only regift items that are in their original packaging and have not been opened
Only regift it to someone who you genuinely feel will appreciate it
Put it in a new gift bag/re-wrap it. Nothing says “I regifted this” like a ratty gift bag and crumpled tissue paper.
Tell the recipient. If you’re really feeling bad about regifting it then simply give it to someone that you feel would appreciate it and let them know where it came from. ‘My aunt Sally got my this beautiful coloring book, but it’s not really my thing. I thought you would enjoy using it’ Simple. Honest. Easy.
Donate it. If all else fails, get it out of your home and donate it.
Happy Holidays and Happy Organizing!
As seen in Huffington Post
While snow, mistletoe and all things holly and jolly may put a smile on other people's faces, it triggers a twinge of anxiety in me. I really don’t like clutter. Obviously. And with all of the great family time that the winter holidays bring comes the influx of new items into our house.
We have a bit of a double whammy in our home. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. Can you say present overload?! That’s why it is especially important to have a plan going in.
I think that the key to staying organized during this time is to try to slow down the inpouring of new items and then develop a strategy to deal with all of the crap, oops, I mean presents, that you accumulate over the holidays. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not all scrooge-like about Christmas, I love buying gifts for my family and friends, I love seeing their faces when I’ve managed to get them exactly what they wanted, and I even like receiving gifts sometimes (as long as it is exactly what I wanted without me having to tell you what to buy!). But I also like to have alternatives to traditional gifts. Here are some of my favorite ways to spread cheer without clutter:
The Gift of Time
Offer to take this person out for lunch or a movie. Maybe a double manicure or pedicure is more up your alley. Set a time and date to actually do this and then follow through. I can almost hear your objections through the computer right now: “I want them to have something to open!” Wrap up a few emery boards, or a box of popcorn with a note explaining the gift. You really have the opportunity to get creative here (this, of course, assumes that you want to spend time with the person in question, if you don’t then maybe you shouldn’t be exchanging gifts in the first place!)
I like applying this strategy to kids as well. Make a cute gift certificate promising a meal out at their favorite restaurant with Mom and/or Dad, a grandparent, aunt or uncle, etc. (I have some free printables you can customize here.) Other ‘gift of time’ ideas are: family movie night (they pick the movie and snacks), an indoor picnic with their favorite food, a few hours at the mall with you where they can pick a present (set a budget!) and grab ice cream, go spend $30 at a local arcade, get artsy and paint a ceramic together, spend a morning at their favorite zoo or museum. They key to this is really to zero in on what they love to do and let them have that super important one-on-one time with you.
Giving someone an experience may be a good option if you don’t live in the same city, or you want them to be able to do something on their own schedule (and not necessarily with you!). Essentially you will be buying them a gift certificate but the intention is more for them to go do something rather than buy something. Every city has it’s own fun local things to do, but here are some ideas; day pass to an amusement park, a local museum or zoo, cooking class (in-home or at a restaurant), indoor trampoline places, massage, spa day, fancy car rental for a day, water park, ziplining, the list goes on and on. Try to think of what they would love to do and let them experience it. You can check out some more ideas here and here (no affiliation).
I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like to eat? I love getting food as a gift. I eat it, it’s gone, no clutter! I know what you’re thinking, that the holidays are already filled with so much good food that no one could possibly need more. And I totally get that, but, 1. It doesn’t have to be junk food and 2. You don’t necessarily have to give it at that moment.
Subscription boxes are all the rage right now, you can do a one-time gift, or choose for the recipient to get them for a few months. They offer everything from meat, to meals to coffee and tea to wine and hard liquor. There are so many choices. Here are a few places that list different boxes (and they ship to Canada, eh):
If you want a more DIY approach (and more budget friendly) than you can put together your own box of deliciousness. A “make-your-own-sundae” kit is always fun: bowl cones, sprinkles, caramel sauce, you get the picture. As long as you don’t include the ice cream you'll be good to go.
Have a favorite cookie recipe? You can put all the dry ingredients in a cute mason jar with instructions. Do a homemade hot cocoa mix in a holiday-themed tin. As always, my go to for all things DIY is Pinterest, so head over there if you need some more inspiration.
This is one category I would reserve for kids or couples, because not everyone likes (or wants) to share. But it is a great way to give a real, tangible gift without adding too much clutter. For children you could buy a new puzzle, board game or art kit. Look for something that they can both participate in and would be encouraged to do together.
Depending on the adults you’re buying for you could go a similar route, though I would opt for a slightly harder puzzle or game (maybe not Candyland for instance). You could also get something for their home that is personalized: notepads, a new wine rack, luxurious new towels, a plant they can care for together. Try to think of their common interests and build on that.
Good luck with your holiday shopping & Happy Organizing!
One of my all time favorite desserts is pecan pie. I'm not sure why, because I don't really even like pecans. Maybe it's the Quebecer in me, having grown up eating sugar pie, (which is exactly what it sounds like, a pie filled with sugar). Sometimes in Quebec we get fancy and use maple syrup along with brown sugar in the filling. Either way it is one of the sweetest (and therefore yummiest) desserts you will ever consume.
Because of this nostalgia I love making pecan pie for the holidays. A couple of years back I found a great recipe and have adapted it a bit through some trial and error. This pie is actually pretty easy to make, mainly because I opt to not make my own crust. I find it way too labor intensive and finicky for not enough of a payoff. The frozen crusts you can buy in the store are perfectly acceptable. It's really all about the filling anyway.
Here is the link to what the author calls "The Perfect Pecan Pie" and here are my changes:
- I buy frozen crusts (the recipe isn't super clear, but the filling is enough to make 2 ~9 inch pies)
- I lightly toast the pecans first and I like a very "pecan-y" pie so I use ~2 1/2 cups of pecans, but really it's to taste ( to toast the pecans I put them on the stove-top in a dry frying pan on low-medium heat and stay very close, because they can go from toasty to burnt in seconds)
- I sometimes use corn syrup (as they call for) but I have also substituted it for molasses
- The recipe also doesn't specify salted or unsalted butter for the filling. I use salted butter because it just tastes better.
- I check my pies at the 40 minute mark, and then every 5 mins after until they're done. Keep in mind that it will continue to cook a bit after you take it out, and you really don't want to over-bake it.
- These pies freeze pretty well, so they can be made in advance. Yay!